Up until yesterday, I had a very real case of Instant Pot anxiety. Though convenient, all of the fancy settings, buttons, and extraneous tools proved daunting. I found myself missing the familiar functionality of a Crockpot or, better yet, idiot-proof sheet pan meals.
My remedial cooking skills provided another barrier to entry. Though the Instant Pot is designed to simplify the cooking process to the point of removing any and all actual cooking, I don't instinctively know how to fashion a flavorful soup or full-bodied sauce, and I often lack the basic spices and pantry essentials to try.
When Williams Sonoma gifted me a few of its new Instant Pot starters, I knew I had run out of excuses. Packed with the essential spices, grains, and dried veggies that make up a classic soup or sauce, they essentially take the time, effort, and guesswork out of cooking.
With that, I lugged my Instant Pot home along with the tortilla soup starter, picked up some chicken stock and canned tomatoes per the instructions, and got to work. Though I had to text my cousin, a self-proclaimed Instant Pot fanatic, on a few occasions (the pressure cooker setting freaked me out), I had a vat of piping hot chicken tortilla soup, aka lunch for the rest of the week. in 25 minutes.
I ladled myself a bowl and was immediately impressed—the chicken was perfectly tender, and the flavor profile was spot-on. My roommate, who is an amazing cook and prepares homemade lunches and dinners nearly every day of the week, agreed, adding that it tasted like it had been cooking for hours rather than a mere 25 minutes.
While I have yet to try the other Instant Pot starters (I will report back once I do), so far I'm loving the convenience and approachability they offer. Not only was I able to prepare, cook, and eat a half-homemade soup within the span of 25 minutes, the starters eased the intimidation factor of using the Instant Pot and preparing soups in general. They're a perfect jumping-off point for novice cooks like myself who lack a spice rack and diligently stock their pantry with ramen noodles and Pringles.
If you're new to the Instant Pot world, consider giving Williams Sonoma's new soup and sauce starters a try, and find the tortilla soup recipe (as printed on the starter packaging) below.
2 tbs. olive oil
1 1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 jar soup starter
1 can diced tomatoes
3 cups water or low-sodium chicken broth
In an Instant Pot set to Sauté, warm the oil. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned all over, about 5 minutes. Add the soup starter, tomatoes and water and stir to combine. Lock the lid in place, seal and set to cook at high pressure for 8 minutes. When pressure cooking is complete, let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes, then quick release the remaining steam. Carefully remove the lid and ladle the chili into bowls.
Serves 4 to 6.
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